Johnnersintheraw's Blog

May 29, 2010


What you build when you really like washing windows.

One reads all these wonderful stories about ‘smart houses’, and about everything they can do.  All the functions under the sun.  But can they burn your toast for you?  I bet they cannot.  And the reason they cannot is that some over-qualified four-year-old in Stanford (the one that wears Egyptian cotton short-sleeve button-downs that only look like they are cheap polyester blend so he’ll fit in) has programmed them only to make politically-correct, golden brown slices of all-grain – with sourdough spores grown in the Valle de Luna. And on each tasteless, carbonless slice, the house will spread just the ‘right’ microscopic amount of lo-cal, lo-carb, lo-fat, no-feed-flavour, oxygenated, organic butter (from the milk of sheep on the Faroe Islands that have never seen the front-side of a shepherd), and also the ‘right’ microscopic amount of sugarless organic beebleberry conserve with seeds that that contain a full day’s supply of leafy green vegetables and no red meat.

‘Smart Houses!  Ah – those wonders of the new twenty-first century – all wired up, every need and eventuality catered for, all sorts of bells and whistles.  They’ve got radiant heating and high-tech insulation and heat-sensitive walls.  Everything one could possibly want is not only available with the touch of a keypad, but in some cases in seems the occupant merely has to think of an image and – presto! – the house obliges.  And I am not merely talking about the usual common or garden conveniences such as vacuum cleaners and window washers and floor polishers and dog groomers and coffee-makers.  Because, believe it or not, ‘smart houses’ can even anticipate every one of your sexual peccadilloes du jour (even the most obscure ones that would get you executed in some countries).  Everything your mind and body desires – all in perfect three-dimensional holograms with not a single detail left out.  Why the house can even produce any flavour of vaginal yeast or toenail fungus under the sun if that is your pleasure.  And STDs?  No problem.  Does a tropical rash under your scrotum turn you on?  Easy-peasey.

The only thing that a ‘smart house’ sex function does not do well is inflatable-doll holograms – the kind that deflates as soon as you get going. Or really boring missionary position holograms that can compile a shopping list while you grunt and groan.  However, they can come up with a hologram with a voice like a corn-crake that nags you about taking out the garbage right as you are about to achieve an orgasm.   

One thing you will never find in a ‘smart house’ is an entertainment centre. The whole ‘smart house’ itself can fulfil every one of your heart’s desires – so what need is there for some outmoded leftover from the middle ages?  At the very mention of such a thing, I can hear your fibulator fibulate. And you would be quite right to gasp and to clutch your throat and even have the vapours.  After all, entertainment centres are sooooo noughties, dahling.  Can you even remember those monstrosities – with all their wires forever getting snarled and the sixteen remote controls that you were always getting mixed up?  Entertainment centres?  Now what were they?  I remember!  They were those gigantic pieces of cabinetry with all those strange flattish boxes that you couldn’t tell apart, as well as the twenty-five sub-woofers strategically positioned around the room and always placed wherever you would have preferred a table on which to set your frozen banana daiquiris.  Entertainment centres always had as their centrepiece a 200-inch flat-screen television with ten-thousand channels – all playing re-runs of Friends and Drake and Josh, as well as those headline news updates that repeated the same stories over and over every half-hour on the half hour – news stories, of course, that your local focus group had chosen just for your house and for the demographics of its occupants.  It goes without saying that each and every entertainment centre of that bygone era of 2008 A.D. took up so much space that you had to build a separate room called a ‘private theatre’ (but which in the prehistoric and Neolithic 1990s used to called a recreation room or a family room (or even the spare-room or – if you had a sense of irony and came from an old family, the ‘day nursery’). And before that, back before even the dinosaurs had been invented by Charles Darwin, there was usually some sort of multi-purpose room with sliding glass doors leading out to a patio on which stood one of those rickety antediluvian barbeques with tripod legs.  And, then of course, inside this multi-purpose room there was a drinks trolley – or even a portable Formica wet-bar – for dispensing shandies and even Babychams (for those special occasions such as that once-in-a-lifetime, 2-for-1 discount on circumcisions from Dr. Bleibner Winkel’s ‘Cut and Slice and Dice Moilerarium – for all those males in your family who had pretended to be little girls at birth, and thus had escaped the procedure right at the beginning, when – according to those doing the snipping it – it was less painful.  Not that they ever asked the snippees.

But so much for ancient history; let us leap forward to the year of Our Lord 2008 and those all-important, all-consuming, all-devouring entertainment centres. It goes without saying, each and every one of these essential organs for a ‘modern lifestyle’ (rather more important that your second kidney) had  – at its core –  the latest version of a Sky-Box or a TiVo, those nifty little gadgets-in-a-box that – providing you had a two-year-old son or daughter to program and set them for you – could schedule each and every minute of your day around those particular episodes of Friends and Drake and Josh and CSI – Guantanamo and Lost that your personal focus group had determined were most beneficial to your biorhythms.  Which reminds me, has anyone else noticed that the demise of Friends corresponded with the rise of Facebook?  For although you’ve probably never bothered to think about this, Facebook has a business plan almost identical to the five thousand scripts of Friends, which are in actual fact  the same script only using different camera angles to pick up the differing nuances of Rachel’s hair. I mean, was she going to flip it to the left?  Or was she going to flip it to the right?  Or was she going to surprise us all and flip it first to the left and then to the right?  

In fact, the very business model of Facebook shows how fiendishly clever its developers really are. What they do is to allow each and every subscriber on Facebook the exact same number of friends that there were episodes of Friends.  Furthermore, in the case of both the social networking site and the television program, no one has ever actually met any of the friends involved. They only think they have; it’s all smoke and mirrors.

Now let’s come to the question of deletions and cancellations.  For as the sitcom was practically cancellation-proof (until the network could no longer afford new extensions for Rachel’s hair), so too can it be next to impossible to delete one of your five thousand friends on Facebook.  First of all, let’s say you decide to hit the ‘delete’ button – after all, why not?  It’s not that you’ve ever heard of any one of your friends in the first place, let alone met them face-to-face or invited them to one of your famous ‘Sex & Sushi in the Sauna’ parties. However, they immediately take umbrage and get all whiny; they write you very weepy, clingy messages asking what have they ever done to deserve to be thrown out in the cold like Lillian Gish in ‘Way Down East’?  Well, first of all you feel terrible – after all, this particular friend is probably the only person, other than yourself, who has even heard of Lillian Gish.  And this alone almost makes you relent.  And then, full to the gunnels with guilt (unless you’re neither Catholic nor Jewish, in which case you are probably both heartless and a used-car salesman who would sell your own mother on eBay), you are by now so bowed down with misery that you take the easy way out.  And  rather than simply ignoring this dispossessed creep of a friend (who will in any case worm her way back in through the ‘friend of a friend’ back door and will – before you know it – be back on your friends list), you end up writing her a nice little note apologising for your brutality, but explaining that you cannot accept the two-thousand additional friend applicants – all of which might be more useful in your climb from the bowels of bankruptcy than a loser like her – unless you dump some of the dead-wood (namely her).  But then the trouble starts in earnest.  For these rejected friends decide to report you for stalking, at which point your only option is to let them back in – simply because nothing’s worth their whining on your wall or their relentless campaign wherein they send you five thousand separate special gifts of the only sort of flower that gives you an allergy attack – the ‘five thousand miles of bindweed sent directly to your garden’ gift.

And you wonder why no one has any free time to enjoy themselves.   

This is all too reminiscent of the situation when you are summarily fired from the job you despised and which you were no good at and from which you wished you had the courage to resign. Only now, because you were fired, you finally have a way to bankroll your future.  And so you will sue your employer for the sort of damages that will support you for the rest of your life.  But then, because you really never learned to consider the consequences of your actions, you can’t bring yourself to take the dosh and leave well-enough alone.  NO!  You have suddenly developed a sense of injured pride, and so what you do is to sue your old employer in order to get your old job back again.  Now, remember, this is the same dead-end job you had been trying to get fired from ever since you got fired from your previous  job at Dunkin Donuts for eating the entire  inventory of rainbow sprinkles.  But much to your surprise, they call your bluff.  They say, “welcome back, sucker.” And so, back you go, taking your photograph of your little dog and your potted begonia and – before you know it -you have settled back behind your desk.  

However, you soon find you can never go home again.  You see, the only reason your old boss hired you back is because it was an easy and affordable way to get you off his back.  And also because his insurance company told him it would cancel the company’s policy unless he rehired you.  And so, your employer re-instates you.  Only this time the boss places your desk where the supervisors can watch every move your make.  This means you actually have to work – no more looking at porn sites and no more Facebook on the company’s time and no more free cups of coffee from the executive kitchen and no more Friday afternoons’ pretending to be sick so you can go home early.  So, there you are: you and your moral victory are stuck in your craw for the rest of your live.  And what is more, you can never shirk again or even wear the wrong colour tie.  And the reason why you cannot shirk (or wear the wrong colour tie) is that you are now being observed by an FBI informant; every move you make will be recorded on secret video cameras (including those times when your boss is giving you instructions for a new way to colour-code paper clips, during which you are taking the opportunity to masturbate with one hand under the desk, whilst taking notes with the other – AND appearing to be aroused by your latest assignment). Who said men cannot multi-task?  Eventually, of course, your dossier grows so vast that the company is compelled to build an extra vault.  At which point – because masturbating whilst taking notes is not mentioned in the Employment Act – your boss has still not been able to come up with a valid reason for firing you.  This means that the two of you will be together for the rest of eternity and beyond.  Unless, of course, he gets the inspiration to file adoption papers. This, quite naturally, thrills you to bits because you have been checking into his accounts and you know to the penny what he is worth.  Just think!  You will be a rich man’s son.  And only that, but you won’t have to work for the bastard anymore! The bylaws clearly state that non-executive employees cannot be related to any executive of the company.  At least!  A win-win situation.  And for YOU!

But then again, sadly, Mister Stupid strikes again.  You simply could not resist having that double sixty-nine with both your boss’s twins, could you?  And right in the swimming pool.  And right at the moment your boss and his new wife (the buxomly luscious blond bimbo proclaimed ‘Miss Honey-Wagon’ at the 2009 County Farm-Implement Show) were expecting the mayor and his new ‘wife’, Robbie Bobby ‘The Implanter’ Magee, assistant manager of the town’s one remaining Bob’s Big Boy.

Needless to say, the evening ends in tears.  Not only are you thrown out of the house without any clothes – because after all you had not bought them yourself (at least not with your own money) – but you’ve been cut out of the will.  And not only that, but your erstwhile adopted father/employer is going to make sure you never get another job in any town in your particular hemisphere or any other hemisphere as long as you live.  Your only hope is to sell all your organs to the local organ bank.  Except, of course, since your ex-adopted father/employer took out a mortgage on them, even they are no longer yours to sell.

Right about now, I hear you ask, “But what has all this to do with smart houses?”   To this I say, “It shows what happens when you are not paying attention.”  Period.  Now, I am not saying that should you stop paying attention when you move into your smart house you’ll end up on the street without a part of shorts to call your own or without any of your organs.  But you might lose contact with your storyline – or in the case of your house, with the all-important instruction manual.  And it goes without saying that in the case of a smart house the instruction manual is run by the computer.  And that means that if you have lost the plot so far, you wouldn’t last a minute in a smart house.

I once saw one of these smart homes.  And it was spectacular.  For the architect was not only a brilliant engineer, but he also possessed  an unparalleled sense of beauty.  First of all, before even thinking about a design for his house, he selected a site.  And when he had found the site and had consulted the local planning authorities, etc., etc.’ he got down to work.

The result was breathtaking.  It was a two-storey glass cube, and it was totally computerised.  Every surface was clear glass: hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of square metres of clear glass. Even the floors were clear glass.  And lest you think that this would be unworkable – after all, in a house privacy is a consideration – at the touch of keypads, each wall or floor tile or door would frost over, and they could also change colours.  And so, you see, within a nonce, the house could take on the appearance of the natatorium at the Bejing Olympics or of a painting by Mondrian.

The family had two sons – both in their teens.  I asked him about teens and clutter.  He said, simply, “They know the score, and they think they can handle it.”  In other words, each kid could take refuge in his own room, frost the walls, and be in his own space.  I then asked him about wardrobes and desks and work-stations, and he showed me.  It was an old magician’s trick.  He did it with mirrors.

The same with the kitchen.  Mirrors camouflaged everything. Plus the fact that if the kitchen was in use and they didn’t want it to be seen from the open-plan ground-floor space, they simply touched a keypad and a frosted-glass wall rose up on hydraulics as a partition.

It occurred to me to ask him a few questions:  “But what about  clutter?” I asked for the second time.  “The house is so well designed and so efficient, we don’t need clutter.” He said, looking at me through narrowed eyes.

I asked him what would happen during a power-failure.  After all, the house was entirely driven by electricity. He said the computers could take care of that;  in fact,  they generated enough power of their own to sell the surplus to the grid. But then he smiled and shrugged his shoulders and said, “There’s always the fireplace.” And with that he touched another control and a slender black granite rectangle rose up from the floor.  With the touch of another keypad it ignited, and with the touch of a third, a rotisserie and a grill rose from the floor and inserted themselves into their respective niches.

“Anymore questions?” he asked.

“How about a toaster?” I wanted to know.

“Never use them,” came the reply.

“And a hairdryer?” I smirked.

“Ditto,” he said.

“How about if you did have them and switched them both on at the same time?” I asked in an innocent voice.

He smiled.  “Then we’re up shit’s creek,” he said.  “Without a paddle.”

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